iSugio

Another – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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In the spring of 1998, 15-year-old Koichi Sakakibara’s father goes abroad and Koichi Sakakibara goes to live with his aunt Reiko Mikami, who lives in a mountain region. Not long after he moves in with his aunt, he collapses from a pneumothorax attack and becomes hospitalized. One day, at the elevator in the hospital, Koichi meets a pretty girl wearing a uniform and an eye patch. After being discharged from the hospital, Koichi goes to his new school. He finds the pretty girl, Mei Misaki is also in his class. Koichi doesn’t feel comfortable, because all of his classmates and even his teacher act like the girl doesn’t exist.

Based on the novel by author Yukito Ayatsuji, Another has established itself as one of the few exceptional works whose source material has been adapted across several mediums. Stemming from its original novel, there has now been a successful manga series, anime series, and now a live-action film can be added to that list as well. With a thrilling storyline residing behind it, Another has garnered a mythos that works primarily upon the fear of the supernatural and its coupling with death, all wrapped within the confinement of high school angst and social hierarchy. But while the live-action adaptation of Another may appear as a work that would translate to the cinematic screen with relative ease, it is largely a work that stumbles due to considerably low production values.

Director Takeshi Furusawa, a man who has dabbled with the horror genre for quite some time with the likes of Ghost Train (2006) and acting as assistant director for Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Pulse (2001), directs Another with an eye towards bringing about a more grounded experience than many other horrors films. Transposing the sense of dread and eeriness expressed in the novel, manga, and anime series, the live-action Another subsequently brings about a more traditionalistic horror experience that harkens back towards many past Japanese horror films. Similar to other, more popular films such as Hideo Nakata’s Ring (1998) and Takashi Shimizu’s The Grudge (2004), Another is presented as a minimalistic horror film that is light on the violence and heavy on the mystery that consumes the characters of the film.

This approach brings about a a sense of realism that reflects upon the strength of the source material itself, showing Ayatsuji’s prowess as an author in crafting an involving tale encompassing elements of the supernatural and its application within a plausible, real world setting. Unfortunately, this approach does not fair too well given the production values of the live-action adaptation itself, as many scenes that were once rendered extremely shocking and powerful in other adaptations come off here as unabashedly laughable due to the obvious budgetary constraints. One will become almost instantly aware that Another is not a film that is particularly well done from a production standpoint, as witnessed in the crudely accomplished death scenes and extremely shoddy CGI shown throughout the film, ultimately resulting in an experience that is less captivating due to the technical qualities of the film rather than the strengths found in its narrative.

But putting aside budget concerns, the film does a proper job in constructing a narrative that remains complementary to the source material as well as bringing in slightly new alterations to such material. While none of the alterations offer a drastically different view on events, it does remain even more grounded than both the manga and anime series. It would suffice to say that the film stays true to the formula of the novel, only altering how certain events are conveyed rather than restructuring them entirely, as is often the case in other adapted works. For those who are familiar with Another through its previous adaptations though, this live-action adaptation may not be quite as interesting to watch simply for the fact that the story remains largely unchanged from those previous adaptations. Small changes here or there could have made for a more compelling viewing experience, but it is also nice to see that the live-action version does remain respective of its source material.

One can see that this interpretation of the Another universe is perhaps the most accessible due to its format being that of a film, bringing forth an experience that is primarily focused on presenting a thrilling mystery surrounding the class curse in a concise matter. It also does exceptionally well in retaining its supernatural premise while expressing through conventional means its subtleties as a psychological horror. From the standpoint of adapting an entire novel into the format of a film though, much has been left out in terms of character development – especially that of Mei Misaki – but Furusawa proves his directorial adeptness in establishing the ordinariness of the film’s high school environment in relation to the supernormal elements surrounding the film’s characters and their plight. It works for the most part, only slightly lowering its effectiveness through unfortunate budget issues that tend to repeatedly rear their ugly head in the film’s many crucial scenes. Despite these concerns though, Another is a film that offers an unpredictable experience that is effective in what it attempts to do, particularly for those viewers unfamiliar with any of its previous adaptations. But for those who are already well versed in the franchise, Another may appear to be a less captivating viewing experience primarily due to more polished adaptations being released thus far.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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